On the road for under $10K: Tow vehicle blowout!

By: Phil Lord, Photography by: Phil Lord

Phil uncovers a nasty surprise in his newly acquired used tow vehicle... is his $10K budget slipping slowly out of reach?

On the road for under $10K: Tow vehicle blowout!
On the road for under $10K: Tow vehicle blowout!

Missed the first instalment? Read Phil Lord's mission here

glow of buying a new vehicle had cooled, I was left with a more rigorous analysis of what I’d actually bought.

I knew that the air-conditioning compressor belt had been taken off, so there was clearly a problem. I bought a new belt, and while the air-con ran cold, the bearing was very noisy.

The left-hand exterior mirror adjustment did not work. The front tyres were scrubbed out on the outer edge; still legal, but not for much longer. The front passenger seat had split at the seams.


First thing was to get the air-con fixed. While my handyman skills would have sufficed, I lacked the experience and the equipment. The main thing I was worried about was spending a large sum on parts and then failing to clean out the system properly – resulting in a blown up new compressor. So I got my regular mechanic, Murray Brown Motors in Ashfield, to have a look.

Bad news. Murray said that the compressor had dumped its oil, so
it not only needed a bearing, which would be a $300 repair, but also needed the oil seal replaced – a total overhaul. Given the price of a new compressor, about $500, a new unit would prove cheaper than a rebuild.

My budget was already blown to the weeds. Murray’s bill, while more than fair, was $1000. That meant the total cost of the Caprice – purchase price plus repairs – was $5350 so far. I was $350 over the vehicle budget already.

Sidenote: That the air-con did not affect how the vehicle ran is a valid arguement, but it sure would make summer touring sweaty and unpleasant.


Next up was a wheel alignment and wheel rotation, so I could get the most out of the scrubbed tyres. They should last another 5000km. Cost: $80. The split seams were a simple repair with needle and thread. Cost: Less than $5.

So I’m up to $5435, with an oil change, towbar and transmission cooler still to go. This will probably bring the Caprice up to $6000 total cost before I can even go caravan shopping, leaving me with around $4000 all up for the van if I am to stick to my $10K budget.

I’m fast learning how costs can rack up when repairing an older car, and the fact that you always take a risk when spending so little on a vehicle that is more than 10 years old. I knew that buying a big Aussie car instead of a 4WD would get me something a little younger, cheaper to repair and still with a decent towing capacity, but clearly I was too optimistic about getting the air-con fixed cheaply.

For now, I need to concentrate on getting the basics for covered off. Hopefully, with
no more nasty surprises.

Read on with Part 4: Tow vehicle, or NOT tow vehicle?

Written exclusively for Caravan World online

On the road for under $10K: Phil Lord's challenge
Part 1: Choosing a tow vehicle
Part 2: Tow vehicle purchased!